Animal Drug Cleared for Lethal Injections

By Jason Beahm on November 29, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The thiopental sodium story continues to develop. As we've previously discussed, there is a shortage of the drug, used by states to carry out the death penalty using lethal injections.

Now U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot has approved the use of pentobarbital, a drug used to euthanize animals, for executions in Oklahoma. The decision could have a ripple effect across other states that seek to deal with the national shortage of thiopental sodium. Judge Friot also denied requests to stay the executions of two Oklahoma inmates.

Oklahoma cited veterinarians who stated that pentobarbital is "an ideal anesthetic agent for humane euthanasia in animals" that is "substantially" similar to thiopental.

Meanwhile the shortage of thiopental shows no signs of ending. Hospira Inc., the only U.S. maker of the drug, won't resume production of the drug until 2011. Hospira does not support the drug's use in executions, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Meanwhile, Texas is being forced to disclose the source of its thiopental sodium after a ruling by the Texas Attorney General's Office. The decision came after criminal defense attorneys pushed the state to disclose the source of the execution drug. They argued that if the drugs came from a questionable source they could cause severe pain.

Finally, Tennessee is being sued over its move to obtain thiopental from a company in London. The lawsuit seeks to block British shipments of the drug because it will be used for executions, which are illegal in Europe.

It looks like the battles over thiopental sodium are destined to drag on for quite a while longer.

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